Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 6 April 2000
Page: 15430


Mr CREAN (1:08 PM) —by leave—I inform the House that we intend to move six amendments to the A New Tax System (Trade Practices Amendment) Bill 2000, amendments Nos 3 and 6 together and amendments Nos 1, 2, 4 and 5 together. I move:

(3) Schedule 1, page 3 (after line 24), add:

2B After Subsection 75AZ(4), insert:

(4A) The Minister must cause a copy of each report received under subsection (1) to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 5 sitting days of that House after the day on which the Minister receives the report;

(4B) On presentation of a copy of each report in the House of Representatives under subsection (4A), the report shall stand referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration; and

(4C) As soon as practicable after the report has been received by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration under subsection (4B), the Chairperson as a representative of the Commission must appear before the Committee at a public hearing, in accordance with arrangements agreed to by the Committee, to give evidence in connection with the report.

(6) Schedule 1, page 6 (after line 22), add:

11 After Subsection 75AZ(4) of Part 3 of the Schedule insert:

(4A) The Minister must cause a copy of each report received under subsection (1) to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 5 sitting days of that House after the day on which the Minister receives the report;

(4B) On presentation of a copy of each report in the House of Representatives under subsection (4A), the report shall stand referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration; and

(4C) As soon as practicable after the report has been received by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration under subsection (4B), the Chairperson as a representative of the Commission must appear before the Committee at a public hearing, in accordance with arrangements agreed to by the Committee, to give evidence in connection with the report.

The amendments deal with two issues. In the time that I have, I should outline them. The first amendments are (3) and (6). They require the ACCC's quarterly report on price exploitation to be tabled in parliament. Further, they require the ACCC, including its chairperson, Professor Fels—who seems to jump up every time there is a TV camera around but cannot find his way into the parliament—to appear quarterly before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration to report on progress. The second issue, comprising amendments (1), (2), (4) and (5), will require business to disclose the GST on receipts.

I want to go first to (3) and (6). As I said during the second reading debate on this bill, the government is proposing a new penalty for misleading and deceptive conduct far higher than anything previously applicable to such conduct. I would also like to take the opportunity to briefly clarify some remarks I made in the second reading debate and to note that Queensland has enacted the original price exploitation code but has indicated its refusal to adopt the government's proposed amendments to its mirroring code.

On the question of the nature of this legislation, we need to understand our concerns, which I raised in the second reading debate, that this legislation could be used to silence the critics of the government's GST. We know that there are plenty of those, but it seems inappropriate to use the argument about penalties to stop exploitation also being used as an effective mechanism to clamp up on the critics. We are proposing to let the bill through and will not oppose it here. However, we will be questioning, through the Senate processes, the intent of the bill in that regard, and we will be making a judgment on our position depending on where that inquiry goes.

The second amendment goes to the importance of ensuring that there is not exploitation. The truth of the matter, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you know, is that the only time the ACCC seems to act with haste, despite the fact that it has penalty powers already, is when we raise issues in this parliament: when we show that pyjamas are going to have attached to them the full 10 per cent; when we find out that the government's own agency, Australia Post, is putting up its price the full 10 per cent; and when we find out that the House of Representatives intends to charge the full 10 per cent on seminars run through the place. Those are three examples that we raised in the course of one day. This was something the government said could not happen and it did. It happened in terms of one of the larger retailers in our country. It happened in respect of one of the government's own agencies. If the government, having said that the price cannot go up by 10 per cent, cannot even control its own agencies, what hope does it expect to have in terms of the thousands of businesses around the country?

Then, of course, there is the constitutional validity argument, which I will be pleased to receive the minister's indication on. We acknowledge that the importance of the Hughes case, yet undetermined, may impact on this, but we believe that if that threat is there it will seriously challenge the capacity of the ACCC to deal with the round-up issue—something that the minister became painfully all too familiar with over the Christmas break. It is against that background that we want the ACCC reporting on its activities on a three-monthly basis, and we want the chairman of that body to come before this House and answer our questions, not just do the government's bidding.